Redspark Interview #6: On the Spanish Financial and Housing Crisis

For this interview, we had the chance to discuss with comrades from Iniciativa Comunista, a Marxist-Leninist organization based in Spain. We wanted to discuss the Spanish financial and housing crisis and their insights about it, and what kind of mass work they do to tackle this issue.

Redspark: Not too long ago the governor of the Bank of Spain issued a warning against relaxing lending standards. Can you explain what the current situation is regarding consumer lending in Spain?

Firstly, we must clarify the role of credit in an imperialist country such as Spain within the framework of an international division of labor. We must be aware that in the new world production scheme there is a Global South that produces the vast majority of the planet’s goods and a small group of imperialist countries that are dedicated to the circulation and sale of these goods, and fundamentally to directing these production processes, and this is where the financial sector takes a leading role. Beyond the fundamental role of credit and debt in subjugating countries of the Global South, we will discuss the more concrete scope of the relationship between credit and the working class in an imperialist country.

The financial sector and the banks appear socially as the intermediaries between those who offer capital/money and those who demand it, in order to prevent it from becoming paralyzed. Thanks to the banks it is possible to mobilize any deposit of money as capital, and thus all unproductive capital (including the savings of the working class) is put at the service of the capitalists. Under developed capitalism, capital is also sold as a commodity and any money deposited in a bank becomes capital for another capitalist in exchange for interest. The interest that banks receive for the loan of capital as a commodity (interest-producing capital) is a payment for the realized surplus value, since within the framework of a developed capitalism all mobile capital is capable of making a profit. In this way the banker serves the purpose of overcoming the private and fractional component of capital ownership and its necessary social function.

However, credit accelerates the process of division and absolute autonomization of capital; it constitutes capital in its purest form, which, without the need to go through production, magically produces interest. It is money that generates money and, therefore, the most fetishistic form of capital. To understand the interest rate, as we have said before, we need to understand that interest comes from the supplementary profits that capital, sold as a commodity, can produce, as interest-producing capital. That is, credit is used to either increase capital in production (increasing investment and therefore profit) or to speed up payments (and therefore the realization of commodities); in both cases there is an increase in the amount of profit thanks to this supplementary capital. In this new profit “pie,” interest is the slice that the owner of the money lent as credit claims.

The average interest rate is fixed as a function of the relative abundance or scarcity of capital (itself dependent on the average rate of profit). Among the different types of investment credit, the most common type is long-term interest, used to increase the capital of companies; its rates are usually the highest, and it is the one that most closely approximates the average rate of profit. Short-term interest serves as a credit for circulation and its rates are usually lower than long-term interest rates. If the circulating credit is not able to secure an increase in the surplus rate and exclusively becomes a form of debt payment, which does not allow for an increase in profit, the short-term interest rate may exceed the long-term rate, which usually indicates a period of crisis.

With respect to the working class, credit is not invested in the production of profit but as a way of maintaining or expanding consumption. As we said before, it is not surprising that an imperialist country in which consumption plays a fundamental role requires and encourages the working class to get into debt and hand over all of its savings to the command of capital in order to stimulate the consumption and circulation of goods as much as possible. One of the main aspects of credit and the working class is related to the payment of goods that the working class would be unable to acquire in a single payment, such as the purchase of a house, a car, electrical appliances, university, etc. In this promotion of credit or installment payment, banks and merchants take an extra slice of the pie thanks to the interest that the working class must pay on the installments that shackle and indebt them to eternity. In this way, the market is enormously increased among the working class, which could not access it in any other way, and their savings and those of their descendants are mortgaged under the control of the financial sector.

In order to understand the expected increase in interest rates, we need to delve a bit into whose interests (no pun intended) are driving this. Firstly, in the face of the economic stagnation that followed the 2008 crisis, the European Central Bank (ECB) has promoted a policy of low interest rates to favor cheap credit and try to boost investment and stimulate production. Since 2016 these have been at historical lows, with an interest rate of 0%, a measure that resonates with other measures followed by Japan, Switzerland, Denmark or Sweden with negative interest rates, which means that the Central Bank pays money to the banks to lend them money. All these measures ultimately seek to revive the economy through easy credit. The central banks practically give the money away to the banks under the condition that they inject it into the economy in the form of credit. One of the most important effects all of this has on the working class is that the interest rate set by the ECB affects the Euribor and, therefore, the variable-rate mortgages, which are the most abundant. This means that the increase in rates has a direct effect on the rise in the price of most mortgages.

As we can expect, financial institutions want to break with this policy of low interest rates because it narrows their profit margins, which come mainly from interest on loans, and although the rates set by the ECB do not directly decide the interest rates of each type of loan, they do mark a general point of orientation on credit interest. The employers and financial institutions of the Spanish State declared that the policy of low rates damages their profitability. Take Carlos Torres, president of BBVA – Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, Spain’s second largest bank – as one example, when he announced that “the delay in raising rates already means a low return, so a fall would be much worse”; or the even more explicit José María Roldán, president of the Spanish Banking Association, who said that “the ECB has to do what it deems necessary to limit the risks of a sharp economic deterioration or possible deflation, but negative rates are not good for bank margins.”

This is where the fundamental contradiction is found: on the one hand, the pressure of the financial sector to raise the rates, and on the other, the stagnation of the economy that translates into an appreciation of the euro and a continued decline in inflation, which could translate into a process of deflation. As we commented above, interest rates are related to the average rate of profit, and a low interest rate has an effect on the economy when there are conditions of realization and expansion of the rate of profit. Reality is that the European economy is incapable of finding a way out for its capital, incapable of finding investments that allow the rate of profit to be realized and, therefore, even if the interest rate is at historic lows, it is not succeeding in stimulating an economy already saturated with stagnant capital. On the other hand, the EU is lowering its growth expectations and looking for any way to reactivate the economy in the face of the danger of deflation. The ECB’s solution has been to raise interest rates, but postponing this until 2020 and preventing the flow of credit from choking by giving incentives to banks that lend money, seeking a slight rise in inflation. The crossroads is obvious: raising rates favors banks, but strangles the economy; lowering rates or encouraging credit without a clear way of increasing the rate of profit can only encourage bubbles.

Redspark: What is the historical context of the current situation?

One of the driving forces behind the economic expansion in the pre-2008 growth period was the increase in household consumption, supported primarily by the ease of credit. As is well known, real estate property was promoted through mortgages and home loans, which together with the speculative cycles of international capital that flowed into Spain, managed to keep housing prices high. To give some figures, during the boom period from 1995-2007, 6 million houses were built and their price increased by 220%. All of this financial bubble was rooted in the sustained growth of house prices, which ensured the revaluation of properties. As we can see, the economic boom was sustained on top of the fragile legs of debt and speculation.

The productive model of the Spanish State since the late-Franco era has always been oriented towards satisfying the needs of the construction sector and the national financial sector. Economic policy is based on the mantra of the capacity of the construction sector to “drag” the rest of the economy along with it, and far from having learned something from the last crisis, the return to brick and mortar appears in the last State plan 2013-2016 through the reactivation of the real estate sector, this time boosting rent, or in the reform of the 2013 leasing law focused on the liberalization of the housing rental market. This is the new determining workhorse in the face of a more than likely new economic crisis in the coming years: rent-based speculation that is exhausting the working class.

Going into more detail about the economic model of the state and the historical background, we can talk a little more about the two-headed monster that dominates the Spanish state, the construction companies and the banks and savings banks. This model is fundamentally based on the model implemented by the government of Felipe González, which ends up outlining deindustrialization, entry into the EU and NATO and the key importance in the economy of brick, tourism and finance. The way to consolidate the brick and mortar project was provided both by fiscal aid and large public works projects (examples are the Seville Expo and the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games). Europe demanded and promoted through subsidies the model of finance and tourism: the country had to be deindustrialized and the production of the primary sector had to be restricted, as well as dismantling the large state-owned monopolies in an accelerated manner. The industries were basically given to foreign capital; the banks, construction companies and energy companies were reserved for a few powerful patriotic families.

At the beginning of the nineties there was already a real estate crisis, not of such intensity, but one that already announced how the financial sector was going to become more and more the protagonist in this type of economic cycle along with the ever-increasing inflow of foreign capital called forth by these bubbles. The presence of foreign capital in the real estate sector doubled between 1985 and 1989, adding more fuel to the bubble fire. Another ingredient of this bubble was the increase in household demand through indebtedness. From 1985 to 1990 credit flowed easily and household debt grew at an annual rate of 23%, far more than their incomes. The way out of the crisis of the 1990s was to wait until the next brick and mortar expansive cycle and flood a bankrupt Latin America with capital. As we can see, the antecedents to the last crisis we have suffered are clear.

After the 2008 crisis, EU adjustment measures sought to ensure the liquidity of banks. The infamous bailout of banks amounted to 219 million euros by 2014, which amounts to 12,000 euros per family. These bailouts are divided between injections of money into the savings banks, the purchase of toxic assets and the restructuring of assets. The Society of Assets from the Restructuring of the Bank (SAREB, also known as “the bad bank”) bought the toxic assets of banks and savings banks that could not go out to the market while the State acted as a guarantor for these assets. This was the plan designed by the troika (ECB, IMF and European Commission) included in the 32 immediate conditions for the rescue of the bank: to create a bad bank that would dispose of the toxic assets of the rest of the banks to clean them up, almost half of which was funded by the State.

But the big building companies and the rest of the large enterprises of IBEX35 (the benchmark stock market index Spain’s main stock exchange) remained to be rescued. The debt of the 25 largest non-financial companies was between a quarter and half of the GDP, and the construction companies accumulated debts worth five times their profits. To remedy this situation, the Extraordinary Infrastructure Plan was created to facilitate the payment of debts that were about to expire, financed both by Europe and the State through the ICO (Instituto de Crédito Oficial or Institute of Official Credit), alongside the contribution of the banking sector. The whole country was surrendered to the interests of the construction monopolies, which were sustained via public projects (mainly railroads and highways).

Within this framework of enormous amounts of toxic assets at below-market prices and of large corporate holdings related to the bankrupted construction sector, a new actor arrived on the stage: the infamous vulture funds. By 2016, the well-known Blackrock fund already held shares in 19 IBEX companies. It was Santander Bank that opened the doors of IBEX35 to Blackrock and other American funds that began to plunder the real estate assets of SAREB. Specifically Blackrock began with Sacyr and NH Hotels, then continued with banks (by getting into Santander and BBVA) and construction and electric companies. The electricity and oil companies were monopolies dominated by the construction companies that assured them a high permanent profitability thanks to the fixing of prices, but they had to get rid of them to pay their debts. Finally, Blackrock ended up positioning itself on the flagships of the IBEX35, such as Telefónica. The role of the Botín family in this whole network was to facilitate Blackrock’s entry into the companies that were under the wing of Santander as well as to put on its side the political contacts and the media holdings, such as PRISA. Blackrock already knew all the weak points of the financial and real estate sector and knew perfectly how to position itself and dominate the IBEX35.

Another example of the sacrosanct union between Santander and Blackrock was the largest real estate operation in the State. Banco Santander had bought Banco Popular for €1 along with all its real estate assets, which were sold to Blackrock. At the same time, Blackstone, acquired real estate at derisory prices such as Ana Botella’s famous sale of Madrid’s public housing stock to this fund. For its part, BBVA is married to the Cerberus fund, whose strongman in the State is one of the sons of former President Aznar. Foreign capital already holds 43% of our market.

And so we come to a situation in which the price of housing, the price of electricity and water, the price of gasoline and telephony depend fundamentally on investors from all over the world with headquarters in other countries. It is worth noting that during the economic crisis they bet downwards against the State’s debt, speculatively increasing our famous risk premium. The same people who wanted to bankrupt the country are ones who designed how it would come out of bankruptcy, ending up directly dominating our economy and our future.

Finally, the last nail on the coffin in the recession period has been the new impulse that is being given to the real estate sector, this time through rent and the evident rent bubble that we are suffering from. The last reforms of the law of leases sought to liberalize the market and facilitate evictions in addition to allowing constant increases in rents already contracted. However, this situation seems to have a short way to go as even the ECB has been announcing for some time the immediacy with which the outbreak of this new crisis presents itself. As the latest example of the close proximity of this outbreak, the Blackrock fund itself is beginning to get rid of its real estate stock.

Redspark: How have the economic crisis of 2007-2008 and its recession affected the people of Spain?

It has affected them on multiple levels both by the many political and economical decisions that the different governments have taken and by a shift in how certain issues are perceived. As one of the countries that suffered the most inside the imperial core, these changes are having a deep effect.

First of all, there has been a general impoverishment of the population, which has been caused or aggravated by different issues. The bursting of the housing bubble meant many families went into debt. It also meant that millions jobs in the building sector, one of the most important sectors in the Spanish economy, disappeared in a short period of time. At the same time, those people who managed to keep their jobs found their salaries stagnated or even shrunk, and most importantly, their job security was gone with the introduction of a new employment law. We shall discuss each of these aspects briefly.

The general impoverishment of the Spanish homes as a consequence of the bursting of the bubble can be summarized in one statistic: while in the year 2000 households had savings of around €9bn, in the year 2007 they were €23bn in debt. The reasons for this massive debt have already been explained.

At the same time, unemployment peaked, reducing the income of the average household. In the year 2007, 1.76 million people were unemployed (8% of the working population). Six years later, unemployment was at an all-time high, with 6.2 million people out of work (27% of the working population). This employment crisis hit the younger population the hardest, since more than half of the people under 25 were unable to find a job at the time. Migrant people and people holding low-skilled jobs have also been severely affected by this unemployment crisis.

Numbers have somewhat improved now, with unemployment slightly below 20%. However, the effects of the crisis are still here, even when recession is supposedly over: social inequality and precarization have become structural issues. Being employed does not guarantee a certain standard of living and in many cases does not even allow for the reproduction of life itself. With rents skyrocketing (more on this later), it is too common for people not to be able to move out their family home even when being employed full-time (currently the average age at which someone leaves their family home is 29, and was as high as 34 right after the crisis). At the same time, rich people have been getting richer: while almost one in four people in Spain live under dire risk of poverty, Spain takes the third place in wealth inequality in the EU, with the richest 20% of the population accumulating around eight times more wealth than the poorest 20% (a trend already present before the crisis but which had been partially covered by the creation of well-paid, low-skilled jobs in construction during the housing bubble).

Another problem looming over the population after the crisis is the current aforementioned rent bubble. After the buying-and-selling frenzy of the first part of the millennium, many people lost their houses to financial institutions, unable to pay overinflated mortgages with ever-worsening working conditions. This shift to renting, in a country of mostly homeowners since the middle of the last century, made renting houses a juicy business for profiteers. A series of laws, which started being introduced right after the crisis, made the housing market a good investment for financial institutions, which have the resources to purchase whole buildings and increase rents at will under incredibly favorable tax schemes (as favorable as 0% tax for entities known as SICAVs or Variable Capital Investment Companies), all of this while the stock of public housing is almost non-existent (in some cases, such as Madrid, having been sold off to private investors). At the moment, the average tenant spends about 40% of their income in rent (the number being even higher in big cities such as Madrid and Barcelona). To add some perspective, this is the highest percentage in the OCDE (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries. The runner-up is Norway with an average of 28%.

The answer of the different governments to this crisis has been chasing an increase in absolute surplus value. The first of the labor law reforms mentioned earlier was introduced right after the crisis (in 2009) by the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) government, and updated with even harsher measures in 2012 by the PP (People’s Party) government. They attempted to make the job market “more flexible” by making it easier to lay people off. This was achieved by considering a “predicted decrease in profits” (not even necessarily predicted losses) a valid reason to lay people off en mass, as well as by lowering the severance pay by 20% even in unjustified layoffs. The State would also take care of part of that severance pay, therefore using public funds to subsidize companies firing people.

These new reforms left the worker even more exposed to the whims of the employer and working conditions plummeted. Unpaid overtime is the norm in all workplaces and holding on to a job for more than a few months is often considered an accomplishment. As an illustration of how the situation has worsened, the term “mileurista” was coined in the first years of this decade to describe someone making €1000 a month, and was used with negative connotations (€1000 being considered an incredibly low wage). Currently, many people consider themselves fortunate if they land such jobs, even after the increase in minimum wage a few months ago. A new labor law reform is on the horizon, and nothing makes it look like it will make things any better, especially after the inability of the organized labor to fight back against these past two reforms. This failure to stop the past reforms is also very significant, because the number one priority for the large labor unions since the 1980s has been reducing unemployment. This meant that they often bought into the “increased flexibility” argument and were happy to give up good working conditions in exchange for job creation (something that is reflected in the fact that general strikes have been at a low ever since the 1990s). So it’s not only that the labor movement, when organized, is not in a position to stand against the State, but that is also discouraged from taking up the fight in the first place.

Nevertheless, the population was not idle while these austerity measures were imposed upon them, and there was an increase in the number of protests around the country. The most famous of these was probably the Indignados movement, during which tens of thousands of people occupied the squares of the main cities in May 2011 to demand more democracy (since it was now obvious that austerity was being imposed against the will of the majority of the population) and the betterment of living conditions. Less well-known but more radical in their core were Marchas de la Dignidad (Dignity Marches), which saw thousands of people marching into Madrid from all over the State in 2014 under the banner of “Jobs, shelter, bread”. At the same time, more and more people were getting involved in the anti-eviction movement, and organized themselves in groups such as PAH (Platform of People Affected by their Mortgages) and “Stop Sesahucios” (Stop Evictions) to stop the evictions of their own neighbors by peaceful means when the police came to throw them out of their houses because of their inability to keep up with the payments.

In response the government increased the level of repression and passed a law, popularly called the “Gag Law”, which made it illegal to resist authority by peaceful means (such as in evictions, by sitting down in front of someone’s house), to document police abuses by photographing or recording them or to demonstrate around places such the Congress or the Senate. Fines for violations can be up to €600,000, and the autonomy that the police have when it comes to enforcement acts as a powerful deterrent for people wanting to organize and demonstrate.

All this turmoil had an effect on the ideology of the people. First of all, Spain had been a two-party system almost since the beginning of elections in 1977, with state power alternating between PSOE (the center-left party) and the right-wing party called Alianza Popular until 1989, when it changed its name to People’s Party. This last party managed to gather together the wide specter of what can be called “the right”, from fascists coming from the Franco dictatorship (Party founder Manuel Fraga was head of a ministry under Franco) to libertarians, including national-Catholics, conservatives and anything in between. This was, we believe, something characteristic to Spain: people on the left might divide their votes between two or three parties but there was nothing on the right beyond PP. The first noticeable effect of the protests coming from the crisis was a rupture with this two-party system: one of the recurring banners in the Indignados movement was “No les votes” (“Don’t vote for them”), asking people to vote for parties other than the two that had alternated in power. While this was not manifested right away, the 2019 elections prove that the hegemony of those two parties is, at the very least, challenged.

To the left of the spectrum, Podemos managed to gather a big chunk of the pool of disillusioned voters, and although it tanked a couple of years ago, it ended up with 12% of the seats in the latest general elections. On the other hand, the right has been greatly divided, and that Frankestein monster that is PP was weakened as a result. Two other alternatives appeared: Ciudadanos, which paints itself as a modern, libertarian right and Vox, which represents the most conservative, reactionary right-wing sector, in the vein of other national populist right-wing parties in Europe. This fragmentation of the right is, we believe, a consequence of the 2007 crisis and the inability of the classical right wing party to give a satisfactory answer to the questions it posed and being constantly involved in corruption cases. With its voter base divided for the first time in decades, each party on the right is trying to outmaneuver the others by moving farther to the right, particularly by reinforcing the idea of an indivisible Spain (one of the main tenets of the Franco dictatorship and the one that has been threatened recently by the pro-independence movement in Catalonia).

This crisis of bipartisanship might be temporary, though. The role that these new actors will play is yet to be determined: will they become permanent players of the game or are they simply fulfilling their role while the old parties “rebuild” themselves? This last possibility seems likely, and can already be seen in the parliamentary left: whatever growth Podemos had was quickly reversed when PSOE caught its breath again, and is now only slightly more relevant than what the previous left alternative, Izquierda Unida, was before deciding to run for elections with Podemos under the same coalition. The crisis on the right can be traced back to how it got out of the latest recession, by favoring Europe and the international funds over the national bourgeoisie, consisting of a bunch of almighty families who made their fortune thanks to their ties to the Franco dictatorship. This resulted in a power crisis that remains to be resolved, but it is not too risky a conjecture to say that PP will eventually regain its previous hegemony: the liberal right in Spain has traditionally been almost non-existent due to the particularities of capitalist development in the Spanish State (with a ruling class made up of aristocrats and big landlords, with barely any industrial presence), and for these same reasons this small liberal right is also comfortable mingling with fascism when necessary; the recent emergence of Ciudadanos therefore is a response to very particular circumstances (the conjunctural crisis of PP after the 2008 crisis and the challenge to national unity posed by Catalonia) and could be reversed.

Finally, the last way in which we believe the crisis significantly affected the people is by making them turn to reformism as some sort of release valve. The crisis showed how powerless or unwilling the two main parties were to fight the austerity imposed from Europe (going as far as modifying the Constitution in 2011 without a referendum in order to add an article to prioritize debt payment over the funding of the welfare state). This, alongside the many corruption scandals, made it look as if electing different, more committed representatives might be an answer to the ills of the people, since the Spanish system is so far from the ideal bourgeois democracy, it looked like there might be quite a lot of room for improvement. This crystalized in the upsurge of votes to the left of PSOE in the general elections of 2015 and especially in the so-called “Town Halls of Change” (i.e. local governments obtained by alternative parties close to Podemos that were often comprised of people who had been active in the protest movements on the street in the previous years and promised to tackle important issues such as housing, the plundering of public resources by corrupt politicians and businessmen, environmental disaster and so on). While hopes were high, they failed to do as they promised, both by unwillingness and by powerlessness in the face of a central government under the rule of PP, which did its best to de-fang these new governments. These reformists saw a decrease in support in the latest elections (in the case of Madrid, even losing the town hall completely), and while many people might still vote for them as the lesser of two evils, they’ve mostly lost their ability to excite voters as they did before. While it would be tempting to say that the working class might be waking up from the reformist dream it immersed itself into four years ago, the truth is that it’s actually moving towards apathy. This lack of references can be used by the communist movement, but is not a certain victory, and this apathy can as well be exploited by the reaction.

Redspark: What kind of work does Iniciativa Comunista do around these issues?

We are working in many different ways, most of them emanating from our mass line. The most pressing issue we can see in which we can effect change is housing: millions of people are affected by it, and it often becomes a crash course on the empty promises of reformism for those affected by it. Many people who were previously uninterested in politics or didn’t consider organizing realized that the only way to hold onto their house was to look for people in their same situation and organize with them, since nothing of use was coming out of the institutional powers.

It is common to find real leaders among the masses who were completely alien to the organized movements three years ago, simply because they had no choice but to struggle. We try to be with the masses in this process, by joining or even creating spaces from which the people can organize and lead their struggles (in this case, for affordable housing). We are not shy about who we are or what we want, but never attempt to lecture anyone nor think too highly of ourselves: we go there to try and radicalize the demands of the people, and to get in touch with the most advanced elements of the working class, but being perfectly aware that it is the struggling what makes you a revolutionary, not being able to quote from a bunch of books. Our goal is to become a reference for people in these movements, so that they know they can count on us and trust us when the lines need to be refined. This can only happen via uncompromised, dedicated work in these mass fronts, and can never be the result of landing in the middle of a struggle you’ve never been a part of and trying to convince them you know better – because you don’t.

Another of the areas in which we are present is the anti-repression movement. Since repression has escalated in most of the State, the need to fight back has also become greater. The fact that more and more “common people” are getting involved in struggling and are therefore facing this repression which was previously ignored or considered justified (as it was aimed at people clearly identified as “far left” and alien to the common folk) makes this work all the more urgent. We have also been (and still are) part of the antifascist movement in Spain, and have lately been trying to make it a cross-cutting issue among most of the general population, trying to break with the classic antifa image of a white young man dressed in all black punching Nazis and expanding it to also include the vast majority of the people.

We are not oblivious to the fact that these areas fall outside the traditional scope of the left, characterized with organizing the working class from their workplaces. This is because we have been taught by experience that it is increasingly harder to do in the imperial core. Workers, in general, are no longer meeting each other under the umbrella of capital, no longer spending hours together in intimately related jobs by the thousands. The prototypical image of a blue-collar steel worker is shattered, and it is likely that the most accurate representation of the proletariat in Spain now is a migrant mother working a temporary job in a supermarket or as waitress. There are many reasons for this, the main ones being the outsourcing of industrial jobs to the Third World, the deindustrialization of Spain as a consequence of joining the European Union and the results of the ‘08 crisis.

The working class has for the most part left behind previous notions of working for the same company for decades in a stable job, now instead jumping from precarious to precarious job. It is very hard then to do the kind of work that was done decades ago, as the working class in Spain has become a class in the same way that a bunch of potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes (paraphrasing Marx). We of course keep getting involved with people who organize for their working conditions (most recently with the workers in the Amazon warehouse in Madrid), and we are aware that many of the most advanced elements of the working class will be found in these struggles, but remain flexible in our tactics to unify the working class and make it go from a class in itself to a class for itself, since we believe the current situation demands it.

One of the tools that we are working on in order to assist us in this process is Casa Roja (Red House). In the summer of 2016 we occupied a large abandoned building in the center of Madrid, which was owned by a family who made their wealth due to their ties to the Franco dictatorship. We turned it into a space in which people could organize, and for months saw it grow into a central part of the neighborhood, under the banner of: “That which is built by the working class belongs to the working class.” People would meet their neighbors there, see what they were up to, what issues were affecting all of them and advance their class consciousness. It was a political space, and we organized several study sessions too, but it was also a place outside our own homes in which we could exist simply as people and not as consumers. With the current trend towards commodifying even the last piece of public space, it was a refreshing alternative.

Unfortunately, we were eventually forced to leave it in December 2016, but are aware that it represented a very important time for our organization, and are working towards reliving that experience soon.

Ultimately, our goal is to reconstitute the Communist Party. We need to get in touch with the most advanced elements of our class, radicalize the struggles that our class is facing and build a mass communist movement, so that we can ultimately “die of success” so to speak (create a movement larger than what Iniciativa Comunista currently is and integrate into it). The largest obstacle we see is getting our class to see itself as a class and not as a group of individuals, and we have a long road ahead of ourselves.

C. Kistler

Also editor of Nouvelle Turquie.